Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Branding children as child predators to protect children from other children?

Here is a lengthy Slate article by Dahlia Lithwick detailing the issues with middle and high schoolers actually being charged with various forms of child pornography for sending sexually suggestive or explicit photos of themselves to their boyfriends and girlfriends. Basically, the logic follows that because kids might suffer harm from sending such pictures (photos being leaked online, the alleged harm that comes when kids do or think anything sexual, etc), it is justifiable to charge said kids with distributing, receiving, and possessing child pornography.

Ok, if the point of child pornography laws is to protect kids from being victimized by adults, how exactly is it protecting kids to have adults charging them with serious sexual offenses and potentially branding them sex offenders for life? If the point of child pornography laws are to protect children from lecherous adults, what exactly is the logic in going after children who send sexual images of themselves to other children? And since the more prevalent situation involves girls sending the pictures and the boys receiving them, there is a certain sexism in charging the girls with distributing child porn and charging the boys with merely receiving or possessing it. But, as the article correctly points out, if everyone in the chain of events is being charged with some form of child pornography, who exactly is the victim here?

Here's the simple version of why this is stupid beyond belief. I have a 17-month old daughter. I certainly would prefer she not send sexually explicit photos of herself to her boyfriend when she's fourteen. But, I'm far more afraid of her being branded as a sex offender, with all the goodies that go along with that (having to register, being forced to live in designated areas, being stigmatized, basically being removed from the fabric of society) for engaging in said adolescent sexual misbehavior. And going after kids for being dumb kids in the name of protecting kids is the pinnacle of illogical.

Scott Mendelson

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